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Words That Are Their Own Opposites

Oh, English. The language we all know and love, the lingua franca of a large part of the world, is filled with many beloved idiosyncracies. Judith Herman of mental_floss dug up 14 of English words that are their own opposites.

For example:

1. Sanction (via French, from Latin sanctio(n-), from sancire ‘ratify,’) can mean ‘give official permission or approval for (an action)’ or conversely, ‘impose a penalty on.’

2. Oversight is the noun form of two verbs with contrary meanings, “oversee” and “overlook.” “Oversee,” from Old English oferseon ‘look at from above,’ means ‘supervise’ (medieval Latin for the same thing: super- ‘over’ + videre ‘to see.’) “Overlook” usually means the opposite: ‘to fail to see or observe; to pass over without noticing; to disregard, ignore.’

3. Left can mean either remaining or departed. If the gentlemen have withdrawn to the drawing room for after-dinner cigars, who’s left? (The gentlemen have left and the ladies are left.)

4. Dust, along with the next two words, is a noun turned into a verb meaning either to add or to remove the thing in question. Only the context will tell you which it is. When you dust are you applying dust or removing it? It depends whether you’re dusting the crops or the furniture.

5. Seed can also go either way. If you seed the lawn you add seeds, but if you seed a tomato you remove them.

Read more over at mental_floss: Link


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As the Simpson's Dr Nick said,"Don't worry, It's inflammable." Then as the fire dept is putting out the fire,"Who would have thought that inflammable means flammable? What a country!"
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